Chidinma's Voice


We were married for 13 years with no history of violence; however other challenges cropped up and I made the decision to file for divorce. Our divorce proceedings were finished and we were just waiting on the judge to sign the final decree when, at 10:30p on a Thursday night, my estranged husband let himself into my home through an unlocked door.  With a gun in one hand and machete in the next, his genesis of violence unfolded right before my very eyes.  For the next two hours, he was screaming, cursing, pistol whipping, slapping, punching, choking, sexually assaulting, throwing things and destroying my property.  And then there was the strangulation.

I recall my estranged husband grabbing me by the throat with so much strength that he single-handedly lifted me off my feet, throwing me into the bathroom mirrors. I couldn’t breathe.  I felt light-headed.  I was certain I was going to faint.  And by the time he was done, I was seated on the vanity.  I went to my doctor the following day, but there was so much adrenaline coursing through my veins that I failed to mention the strangulation.  Two days later, I returned to tell my doctor that I needed cold/flu medication.  I was having a difficult time swallowing, my voice had changed, and my throat felt generally sore.  I felt so embarrassed--so naive--when my doctor, after asking a few probing questions, indicated that these were all the result of having been strangled.  By this time, my bruises had started to show [I am black/Caribbean] and my doctor documented every bruise she could find.  Meanwhile, the paramedics, investigators and prosecutors never asked about the strangulation beyond what I had written in my statement on the night of the assault. My domestic violence counselor never asked about the details either.   I guess the details were irrelevant to them.  And so the details became irrelevant to me.

Four years later and I am just now realizing from a medical standpoint, the severity of the entire crime, but more specifically of the strangulation.  Four years later and my experience as it relates to the strangulation is being illuminated and validated.  Four years later and I love my son--who was a one-year old baby at the time of the crime--and my parents, and my family in a different way because I realize how close I came to being unable to control my bladder, being crippled or even being dead.  It took four years to put the pieces together, but I thank God for all of the individuals along the way including Kelsey McKay.

I am realizing that although a strangulation charge was filed, nobody asked about the somatic nor experiential symptoms. I don't remember the strangulation being addressed at all during the trial - at least not during my testimony.  And during closing testimony, the prosecutors (NOT the defense) brought up the fact that my ex-husband was a white collar worker with no criminal history.  They said this was why they weren't asking for the maximum and only recommending 8 years.  By the way, the crime also involved a loaded gun and a machete.  In the end, my ex-husband, who opted for a jury trial, was sentenced to 4 years.  He will be released later this year. 

My ex-husband did not get 4 years in prison for his crime against me.  He actually got probation for the assault against me.  He got 4 years in prison because he assaulted a friend of mine on the same night that he assaulted me. How sad that my friend and I went through the same/similar experiences, but because I was a family member (at least that's the reason I'm attaching to it) the sentences were vastly different.

After attending your seminar, I realize, in a different way, how close I came to death.  My son was a one-year old toddler at the time and he would have lost both parents that night.  Your work will surely directly and indirectly impact people you will never meet, so on behalf of all those individuals, I say "thank you from the bottom of our hearts"!

See Chidinma featured in "Suits for Shelters" / Mary Kay: